Toca Life: City is Toca Boca's most popular app (number 1 in 47 different countries, apparently), and it's just had an update that adds a bunch of new content.
Tag: Toca boca »
As some readers may know, my family and I are huge fans of Toca Boca - on a short list of app developers that, if I did not have the privilege of reviewing applications, would buy their digital games sight unseen, based on their stellar history.
Because of this, I would like to expressly explain that Toca Boca’s new app, Toca Builders, is quite different from their previous apps which have been utterly intuitive and creative open-ended role-playing digital toys for all ages, including the youngest app users as they pretend to play activities such as tea party, store or restaurant.
Toca Builders is quite a different experience, geared towards 5+, a building app that transports players into completely open areas to build on, styled like a vast, empty island, as water, the reflection of one's builds and rarely even fish jumping can be seen if one looks over the edge of this island, a point of view that I find quite captivating. There are also partially build scenes that one may come across when starting a new scene such as a forest or a port that do a nice job of giving users a partially built world one can add on to, jogging my creativity to add more related structures like a tree house or other smaller boats that I have tried my hand at building.
The actual game play is charming as it is engaging as players find themselves alone on this island with builders - robots as my son likes to call them - as they perform the construction and painting as they are being controlled by the user.
Instead of stacking Legos or building a structure by hand, imagine doing so with the aid of a Da Vinci Surgical Robot, using controls that in turn move the arms of a robot which then stacks the blocks in question, making the experience as much about the process of building as the outcome created, as here one must select the correct builder to perform tasks that one may take for granted while building with blocks by hand.
Users will delight in the sheer creativity of how these characters perform their tasks, and do note that one can change the vantage point seen with the movement of two fingers on the screen to see the world created at every angle - a wonderful, necessary detail that I find quite interesting.
Four of these builders partake in the construction with building tasks broken down into one per character.
There is Blox, who lays down the first layer of bricks and also delights in smashing bricks in his path that are in his reach up to three bricks high. The sight of Blox smashing bricks is utterly satisfying, with minute details included such as a puff of brick dust seen with each smash, as are smaller pieces of rubble that disappear, adding to the richness that one would expect from Toca Boca.
Vex is the go-to character who enjoys stacking blocks up to six blocks high and is a great character to create walls or other 3D structures. I adore his ability to jump over blocks in his path as well as his ability to jump from the blocks he has stacked on his way to continue building.
Stretch is a builder built on an accordion hinge that can be raised or lowered to allow this character to reach up and place a brick anywhere including directly off the ground in a way that defies gravity, as well to smash bricks in her upwards path.
Connie is a crane-like builder who can pick up and move any brick - great for block removal as well as adding blocks to structures, but be aware that Connie does not produce her own blocks; she must build with found bricks from other sources. I do enjoy her ability to run like a four-legged spider or crab, moving in a choice of any direction.
I also love to watch where these first three characters produce their bricks, be it from a backpack-like device, having a brick drop from one’s lower half as if laying an egg, or popping out of the head of stretch. I have really enjoyed each of these delightful details a great deal to say the least.
Two painting builders are also available to work: Cooper, who loves to paint the ground while rolling on a marble controlled by a track ball that players move with a finger, and Jum-Jum, who is great at spray painting all surfaces, including all angles of three-dimensional shapes created by other builders.
Jum-Jum as a character is uniquely stationary. One controls where the spray or paint will land, aiming the paint shot instead of moving this builder - a mild issue as Jum-Jum can’t be moved out of the way of other builders or structures under construction.
Although I would not calling the controlling of these builders as intuitive as, say the serving of cake seen in Toca Tea Party, children of the target age of five and up and their adults will be able to figure this gameplay out - a learning curve as challenging as the building itself.
Each of these characters has the ability to face all directions as users may pull a lever that turns the builder to the right or left, ultimately rotating in a full circle if a player chooses. After tapping to have the builder face the direction in which to walk, another button pressed starts the builder on his way - either in a slow, deliberate, block-by-block fashion or having the character run with abandon by holding the button down. Sometimes the track ball is used instead to control the builders as they scurry around.
A very nice variety of colors is available to choose from in terms of painting the blocks, ground, or with Jum-Jum’s trunk-like sprayer. I also admire the ability to move these characters around the screen, with their painting or brick-building turned off to better position these creatures before beginning their work.
This app, aside from its obvious creativity, is excellent for problem-solving in terms of how to make these very differently functioning robot-like creations work together to build projects devised by the user.
As one can imagine, the building possibilities are endless as are the brick pieces one has access to.
My five year old son can spend a good deal of time working with this app, keeping him utterly quiet as he paints and constructs. He has shared, however, his disappointment with the fact that each block is the same size and can be stacked only in the linear fashion of one on top of the other, as if his bucket of blocks at home were fast in terms of colors and sheer amount, yet were all square - a disappointment as my son enjoys different types of triangles, cylinders, arches and other architectural blocks a great deal.
For me too, it is the lack of curved edges that gives me momentary pause, as there is a harshness which comes from consistent use of right angles seen during our builds.
Also of note is the ability to build only six blocks high, creating a specific scale as this is how high a building can be built. This being the case, each block is 1/6 of a single story building, making it difficult to create small details such as wild flowers or a garden to scale, as well as make larger multi-story structures impossible. The resolution of images painted on the floor of these worlds can also look as if they lack resolution, especially if trying to create a curved edge - a pet peeve of mine that many will not be distracted by.
Working with Toca Builder, my mind wandered to the movie Silent Running starring Bruce Dern where Dern plays a botanist in charge of taking care of the Earth’s remaining vegetation while traveling through space, alongside his trusted service robots whom Dern has anthropomorphized. Although not the only character in this film, the scenes that still play in my mind are those of stark isolation as Dern is all alone except for his robot helper companions working together to maintain the plants on board - moments that I found fascinating yet painfully lonely.
To me, this Toca Builders app seems a little lonely as well, as one builds what amounts to a ghost town of sorts, as no other characters exist in which to interact with what has been built. Sure, the builders are cute to watch as they move about, but they are not substitutions for other characters that one could possibly build or articulate, and my son was disappointed not to be able to build a car to drive on the road that he created. I am happy to say that upbeat music is heard while during this app, hampering the lonely tone that I sometimes feel, which I am thankful for.
There have also been times that the bureaucracy of having to choose the correct builder to move a brick becomes too much for me, as I would rather drag a piece to its rightful place or remove a brick in my build with the drag of a finger.
Even with these notes, the endless amount of choices one is offered is never-ending and hugely impressive, an app that asks much of its users in terms of focus, making this a great app to look into for home as well as school environments.
Toca Train is the new digital toy from the developers at Toca Boca which allows children to play with a train set, hauling cargo as well as transporting passengers.
Two basic points of view are included, allowing children to experience this toy from both the conductor’s eyes as well as a variety of perspectives from outside the train.
From inside the train, children will take on the role of conductor, controlling the train’s speed with which nicely corresponds to the changing of gears. Do explore this car, discovering the fun interactive details such as a horn to pull as well as the map of the tracks and even a cup of tea one can sip - a detail utterly Toca Boca that made me smile. It would be nice, however, if the map would show the train's current location as one moves along the tracks.
It is quite engaging how one can stop the train to pick up cargo and passengers as a flashing light will notify one that a stop can be made, found left of the gears controlling the train’s speed and strategically placed where one can bring the train to a stop, making this interaction very intuitive to use.
Choosing to stop to make a pickup will allow children to choose from different types of cargo with the use of an interactive crane complete with hints for how to make it work smoothly as well as picking up passengers, arranging where they sit on the train or leave and making room for new passengers. It is also fun to see how the different people are styled, all unique to themselves and including subtle body movements that bring them to life in a way that I enjoy.
The views from the front and side windows of this train are impressive, showing off the immersive land created including a blue sky with clouds, green grass, buildings, trees and the train tracks ahead, as well as the view as one goes under bridges or through tunnels. It is a special treat to be able to move with a finger the perspective around this train car, allowing players to look outside the window on the side and the front, as well as tipping the view slightly up and down. It would be a nice touch, however, if one could see the view of this car a full 360 degrees, being able to look behind where the conductor would sit and possibly to see the view from a back window. Even without this detail, the illustrations, here in 3D, are realistic enough to make me a little dizzy - a compliment to be sure.
With the tap of a button, the view can be changed to appear as though one is outside the train watching it move along these tracks. Swiveling and the pinch and zoom of fingers can change the perspective as well as the distance one is from the train in order to create a player's own personal vantage point to a great effect. I do wish that one could also zoom out fully to see the entire track at once as the unique design of train tracks as a whole has always interested me.
Although I have developed a great deal in my affection for this app, I did at first have to remind myself that this app is Toca Train, not Toca Train Table as I do miss the opportunity to move the tracks to my own liking - a choice that I respect as this is simply not the app Toca Boca set out to design.
I also had concerns that Toca Train was not as social as their other apps like Toca Tea Party or Toca Store, but after overhearing the conversations my son and husband have when playing with this app together, I can see that this app can be as social as players choose, discussing the seating arrangements and travel schedules of the passengers and the hauling of the cargo.
The world created within Toca Train is a beautiful one, with many details both natural and architectural. Players are bound to find something new each time they play - even a small detail that adds to the richness of these landscapes. This, combined with the soothing yet upbeat music, makes this a lovely choice for an app for relaxing and at bedtime and an easy recommendation for all ages.
I have a real treat for readers today as I would like to announce that recently, Toca Boca released a free version of their popular digital toy app, Toca Kitchen. Titled Toca Kitchen Monsters, this new app includes two monster characters whom players can cook for and feed, complete with monster-like table manners and house-keeping skills.
Toca Boca is one of my all-time favorite developers, and it is really a gift for app users - new and seasoned alike - to be able to download an app of theirs for free, allowing parents to try one of their digital toys to see if they would like to purchase more of these reasonably priced applications.
Fans of Toca Boca who are familiar with Toca Kitchen will recognize much of this app because game play here is similar to the original application. First choose one’s monster character - either the brown furry creature with the banana peel on his head or the odd-looking blue guy styled in an equally odd way.
A swipe to the left of the screen will bring players to the refrigerator that here contains eight foods that one can prepare and feed to their character choice, including fruits and vegetables as well as a steak and/or hotdog. By first glimpse of the fridge, players may notice the old food splatter all over the interior, as well as the outside of the fridge and the door, which can be seen as one drags a finger over this section for a moment before the finger lets go, opening the door to see inside.
I love the inclusion of these messy details, as one can see spaghetti draped over the door handle, a piece of toast stuck to the door itself, as well as yucky yellow handprints and a mysterious yellow spill dripping from the top.
After food selections are made, one can choose to feed these choices raw to their creature, either whole or cut into pieces, as well as using other kitchenware to prepare these foods such as food processor, pot for boiling, pan for frying and microwave.
One can also see here that these monsters are not great housekeepers as all the kitchen tools seen here are also in need of a good wipe-down, as are the walls and other surfaces such as stovetop or microwave. This kitchen is pretty much a disaster - elements that I really enjoy - with many messy details to discover, which really adds to my monster-feeding experience.
When the food is prepared, do offer some to your creature, taking note that these beasts have very strong food preferences that they are not shy to display, as they often blow a raspberry, complete with out-stuck tongue but can also really enjoy their food, although this can be quite messy in and of itself, with food particles flying from their mouths as they chew.
When I was first testing this app, I loved these messy, friendly monsters and took them on face value as being simply whimsical characters which are very Toca Boca. It was not until I over-spiced my character’s food with pepper or salt - new condiments to the Kitchen app - and had this monster blow the entire mouthful in my face digitally, complete with what would be drip-down on the front piece of glass of my device - that a thought hit me.
This is no generic little monster; this reminds me of my little monster, especially when he was younger and trying foods for the first time, and yes, in the throes of taking care of a sometimes high-needs baby, our kitchen could use a good wipe-down from time to time as well. This is the reason that I am so smitten with the fun dirty details found within this charming application.
My mind wanders to a personal favorite book that I read to my son, Zagazoo, by Quentin Blake, about a young couple who receives a package of a zagazoo, which readers will identify as a baby. This zagazoo inexplicably changes into a vulture who screeches loudly, especially at night, to a warthog who wallows in the mud, an elephant who knocks everything down, a vulture with a fiery temper, and finally to an odd hairy creature that keeps to himself until one day he changes into a lovely young man, having gone through all the stages of childhood that readers will easily relate to.
Keeping this book in mind, I see the monsters from Toca Kitchen Monsters as children with monster-like table manners that I as well as most parents can relate to on many levels. From this point of view, I am smitten by all the antics and messy details found within, confounded by the fact that my son is growing up and has developed better eating habits. I can now look back fondly at this time in his life as he is no longer exhibits such messy behavior, but I can understand parents being concerned that very young children may in fact emulate the raspberry-blowing and food spitting of these monsters - not much of an issue for children in preschool or beyond, I would hope.
I am enjoying the new salt and pepper and extra cutting abilities found in Toca Monster Kitchen and the recent update to Toca Kitchen. The biggest change I would love to see included within these apps is the ability to cook or in other ways combine different foods together, although being able to place foods together on the plate to feed these monsters is always nice.
It is very easy to recommend this wonderful, free application to readers. My husband and I enjoy Toca Boca apps as much as my son does, and we as a family get very excited to hear about anything new from Toca Boca. I look forward to new applications by this talented group of developers.
This week at 148Apps.com, site founder Jeff Scott reviewed and recapped the introduction of the New iPad, saying "The iPad 3 looks to be a solid update to the iPad 2. Not only do we get an amazing retina display screen and updated internals for a faster device while maintaining the look of the iPad 2, but we also keep the great battery life and price points. Here’s a quick rundown of the new iPad. Which, by the way is called just “the new iPad.” Or perhaps it will end up being known as just iPad like the Macbook and iMac lines."
Meanwhile, at Giggleapps.com, Amy Solomon reviewed the latest in the line of Toca games, Toca House. She writes, "Toca Boca is a very well-regarded developer, possibly best known for its open-ended apps such as Toca Tea Party or Toca Hair Salon. More akin to Toca Doctor, Toca House is a collection of 19 domestically focused mini-games that take place within a wonderfully styled home and yard.
I enjoy the look of this app very much, as does my son, being very bright and colorful. Players will be scrolling up and down through this house that one is visiting, as five floors can be explored from top to bottom – a bathroom, living room, kitchen, laundry room, as well as front door and attached yard space."
148Apps.biz writer Brad Hilderbrand noted that in a recent report from Spaceport, HTML5 showed top performance on iOS devices. Hilderbrand says, "According to extensive testing, the iPad 2 is far and away the best device to run HTML5, and other iOS machines blow their Android counterparts out of the water, performing roughly three times better than the competition. Though the latest Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich are beginning to close the gap, the data still shows that Apple devices are the benchmark against which all others will continue to be measured."
And that's the week in review. 148Apps is always bringing you the latest iOS-related content, including contests, reviews and news, so follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook to keep up to date from minute to minute. See you next week, appslingers!